Heaven embraces the horizon.
No matter how jagged the profile,
The sky faithfully conforms.
Wherever you are, they sky constantly meets the horizon. It conforms absolutely with the earth’s surface. Changes in the earth or sky do not affect this perfect adaptation. There might be clouds, it might be night, there might be mountains or trees or even buildings on the horizon, but the relationship remains.
No matter what circumstances life may present, we must adapt exactly, whether we think the situation is good or bad. Resistance is useless. Instead, we should concentrate on perceiving whatever circumstances surround us. For example, if one is in a leadership situation, one must adapt one’s vision to that of the group; the successful leader articulates and brings consensus to the group. Being flexible and constantly adjusting to the times is one of the secrets of Tao.
We often think of the landscape as being in the foreground and the sky as the background. It is because the sky is always in the background that it can meet the outline of the foreground perfectly. If we emulate this feature of being in the background, then we too can find perfect conformity with life. Such adaptation is not passivity, however. It is concordance. It is because the sky is in the background that it is in fact supreme. So too with ourselves. If we know how to adapt, we end up being superior.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” — Charles Darwin
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” — H. G. Wells
Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.” — Marcus Aurelius
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw
“As human beings we do change, grow, adapt, perhaps even learn and become wiser.” — Wendy Carlos
“The assumption must be that those who can see value only in tradition, or versions of it, deny man’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.” — Stephen Bayley
The Tao is all about adapting to change. I don’t think that necessarily means accepting the conditions we find around us, though. It is more about spiritual adaptation to those conditions – you don’t necessarily have to submit to what is happening around you. You have to spiritually adapt to what is going on around you. Sometimes, that means blending in, other times, it means preparing for a fight that you know will result from the circumstances.
Those who truly lead the group are the ones who gently steer it towards a group consensus, not those who force a group to do what the leader wants done. Leaders who push their own agenda simply get in the way of what the group will inevitably finally decide is right, and be remembered in shame. The true leader emerges as if from the background, and suddenly seems to stand above the rest. But the truth is, they have been there all the time, quietly leading.
Pay attention to what is going on in the background, to what is haapening in response to events, to the storm clouds forming on the horizon or the sun getting ready to burst through what seems like the darkest night. Pay attention to the background of people’s lives that leads them to act the way they do. And always be ready to adapt to the changes in life, the things that seem to be in the background but that will soon affect you. And be content to be in the background, quietly changing things, quietly adapting.